DC man arrested after vandalism at Catholic school

A D.C. man has been arrested in connection with two incidents of vandalism at a Catholic school in Northeast D.C. that police say they are investigating as a potential hate crime.

Demitrius Hansford, 32, was arrested Tuesday and has been charged with burglary, theft and destruction of property, D.C. police said.

St. Anthony Catholic School, in Brookland, which teaches pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, was vandalized twice in the past week.

In the first instance, which took place about 11 p.m. Aug 10, a statue of St. Anthony was toppled over, causing the statue’s head to break. The statue’s head was subsequently stolen and is still missing. A window sill and playground benches were also damaged, the school’s principal said.

The first incident at St. Anthony Catholic School, located in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood, happened either Wednesday night or Thursday morning, according to D.C. police. A statue of St. Anthony was turned over and the head was stolen.

Five days later, a thief broke in through an unlocked window, took $1,400 in cash from a box in principal’s office, along with three digital cameras, memory cards, flash drives and jar of loose coins, according to court documents. The intruder also smashed two other statues and broke some candles inside the school.

The school had a camera system but it hadn’t been functioning for several months, according to court documents.

Hansford was identified as a suspect in the vandalism after police say he assaulted his mother and left behind items stolen from the school on her front porch in Northeast D.C.

When police came to her house, they discovered the items, which matched some of the items stolen from St. Anthony’s, including checks with the name and address of the school on them, picture ID cards and flash drives and memory cards, according to court documents.

Hansford was arrested Tuesday after an officer recognized him from a bulletin. In addition to the charges related to the vandalism, Hansford is also charged with simple assault.

In a brief court appearance in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, Hansford pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He was ordered released on his own recognizance for the D.C. charges, but will be held in D.C. for three days as he has an outstanding warrant out of Charlotte, North Carolina, on a charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon issued on June 13.

In a news release Wednesday, D.C. police said they were investigating the vandalism as “potentially being motivated in whole or in part by hate or bias.”

The school’s principal, Michael Thomasian, told WTOP earlier this week he believed the vandalism constituted a hate crime.

“When you attack a symbol of the school, a Catholic school, and when you target someone that represents who we are in our mission, and you cut off the head and take it with you, that’s full of hate,” he said.

A GoFundMe created to help the parish has already raised more than $30,000, which the school says will be used to repair the damage, beautify the outdoor space and improve safety.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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